Sample Of Source Of Data In Research Paper

What is a primary source?

A primary source is an original source that documents an event in time, a person or an idea.

Some examples of primary sources are:

  • raw data
  • original research (journal articles, books) 
  • diary entries, letters and other correspondence
  • photographs, artifacts
  • audio or video broadcasts (that catch events as they unfold) e.g. Real-estate film shot at Hatley Park c.1938 from DSpace@RRU
  • eyewitness accounts or interviews
  • legal documents, government documents, public records (e.g. birth certificates)
  • records or other documents created by organizations

What is a secondary source?

Secondary sources build upon primary resources by analyzing, interpreting, synthesizing or discussing them.  

Examples would be:

  • books
  • journal articles (that do not provide original research)

A good way to determine whether or not a source you are evaluating is primary or secondary in nature is to ask yourself:

"Is this 'first-hand' information or 'second-hand' information?"

If you said 'first-hand' then it is likely a primary source.  If you said 'second-hand', then it's likely a secondary source. 

However, there is not always such a clear delineation.  A secondary source may also be a primary source, depending on the context its used in. 


Primary Source Secondary Source
Newspaper Interview of Gilles DuceppeNewpaper article written post-interview, evaluating Duceppe's comments
Census data collected by Statistics CanadaAn article using Census data to discuss population trends
Diaries or letters from soldiers during World War IIA book about the effects of WWII on soldiers

Tertiary sources – you mean there's more?

Tertiary sources provide overviews of topics, digesting other primary and secondary sources into summaries of information. 

Examples of tertiary sources are:

  • encyclopedias
  • textbooks
  • almanacs

Another way to look at it is that all three categories of sources reflect the timing of the publication cycle, with primary being first and tertiary being last.

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